Hey Tiger Mom– It’s Location, Location, Location

Posted on January 21, 2011. Filed under: Asian culture, chinese culture, cross cultural, family life, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

Tiger Mom is all over the place trash talking us moms in the West.  Although I find her righteousness annoying, I do admire her business savvy. She clearly knows that in America, inflammatory insults are the fastest way to get tons of publicity.

I’m sure if she wrote a book that said, “Here’s one possible way to raise your kids, and parts of it worked for me and parts didn’t,” she probably wouldn’t have gotten so much attention.  But say you’re better than American culture, and there is bound to be blow back.

Tiger Mom’s techniques may work well (or not) if you live in Tigerland. If you raise your tiger using Tiger Mom techniques, and you live in, say Dolphinville, your kid probably won’t fit in too well and won’t develop necessary dolphin skills.

Every culture has great moms. They are great because they are lovingly raising their children to be successful in their own culture, by their own cultural standards. Parenting and culture are not one-size-fits-all.

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Partying across cultures

Posted on April 23, 2010. Filed under: American culture, cross cultural, hispanic culture, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

My husband is attending a party for a relative this weekend. He knew that I definitely wasn’t going to attend, and didn’t even bother asking me.

Dominicans and Americans have very different ideas of what makes a good party.  I don’t like Dominican parties. Their key ingredients? MUSIC and DANCING. The music is loud to the point where you can’t hear the person next to you or even your own thoughts. At my niece’s  college graduation party, I spent most of the time outside, away from the noise. Food is optional, conversation is optional. Drink, music and dancing are required. Also, I dance like a BIG GRINGA, so I’m in no hurry to hit the dance floor where everyone age 2+  has killer moves.

Dominican parties have no start time or end time. They start when you show up, and they finish, as my husband likes to say, when the adults are drunk and the children are crying.

Being Jewish-American, I think the keys to a good party are great FOOD and CONVERSATION. God forbid someone goes hungry or leaves thinking you had a lousy spread. Music is good, but not so loud that you can’t mingle and have great conversation, which is much more important than great dancing.

What makes for a good party in your culture? Have you ever attended a party in a different culture? What was it like?

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Using a Woman’s Touch in War

Posted on March 6, 2010. Filed under: arab culture, cross cultural communication, cross cultural conflict, Uncategorized, women | Tags: , , , , , , , |

The US military is using female marines in a culturally appropriate role in Afghanistan, giving war a woman’s touch.  As part of a military cultural experiment, female marine engagement teams will meet with Afghani women to build relationships and gather intelligence.  For many Afghani women it is prohibited or at least culturally inappropriate to speak with an man who is not your kin. Female marines offer a way around that.

Because they are women, these soldiers will have access to the local social network of information that is common among rural women. Male marines would never have access to this network.

Just as women in business have gone from using male models for communication and leadership to valuing and incorporating female models, ie. relationship-based, women in the military are now being valued for the unique skills and access their gender provides.

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Obama, Reid, and Nonverbal Communication

Posted on January 12, 2010. Filed under: cross cultural communication, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

Harry Reid was only stating the obvious—-what you look like and what you sound like have a huge impact on your audience.

93% of communication is nonverbal. The actual words account for only 7% of communication.

How closely your nonverbal style matches someone else’s will affect how well the two of you can communicate. The closer the styles are, the better the communication. Styles that are different are more likely to result in prejudice, conflict, and communication breakdown.

What Reid was saying, basically, is that a White American audience will be receptive to Obama’s appearance (light skinned), and vocal qualities (“no Negro dialect”). People, rightly or wrongly, have expectations and preferences for nonverbal communication. It’s the “Oh, he’s like me” moment that lowers communication barriers.

Biases and prejudice are also grounded in nonverbal communication and body language. People make judgments, both positive and negative, about other cultures’ body language and tone, which then impacts communication.

People who interact with diverse cultures will have greater awareness of different nonverbal communication styles. Those who understand and can use a variety of these styles will have a larger skill set to draw on and greater chance at communication success.

Nonverbal communication includes:

  • facial expression
  • body posture
  • touching
  • movement
  • physical distance
  • hand gestures
  • eye contact
  • grooming/dress
  • Tone and vocal qualities (dialect)

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What I just learned about Arabic

Posted on August 11, 2009. Filed under: arab culture, language, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

I recently learned that the Arabic language was created through the deliverance of the Quran.  The language was created for the purpose of religion.

I have always said that language and culture are inseparable. In fact, all  CAL Learning programs are founded on that belief. If language and culture cannot be separated, and Arabic language was created for religious purposes, I would expect Arabic culture and language to be closely tied to religion.

One example of the connection between language and religion is the basic greeting. The Arabic greeting, as-salamu alaykum, which means “peace be upon you”, is from the Quran. The language comes from the religion.

Are you an Arabic speaker? Can you give other examples of the connection between Arabic language and religion?

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You think we gossip, we think you’re shallow

Posted on July 21, 2009. Filed under: cross cultural communication, Uncategorized, women | Tags: , , , |

It only took me about 47 years, but I no longer get annoyed at the way men communicate, and I no longer try to get them to change. Both being annoyed and hoping  others will change are a total waste of time and energy.  Now when I see the stark differences in communication styles, I just say, wow, look at that.

GENERALITIES (please don’t write me that these are generalities. I know. That’s why I’ve included the header, GENERALITIES):

(straight) Men tend to use communication to:

  • Impart knowledge
  • Define status
  • Present solutions

Women tend to communicate to:

  • build relationships
  • Seek consensus
  • maintain harmony

Women also process out loud, talking things through, whereas men prefer to process internally, and talk when they have a solution.

I fall somewhere between these two extremes–I like to build relationships, but frequently like to cut to the chase and focus on solutions without all the touchy feely lets-talk-it-out stuff. I’ve been told more than once that my communication style is masculine.

Still, I am sometimes shocked at the shallowness of men’s conversations. (sports talk as communication is another posting). Their conversation often shows no interest in the details, vivid descriptions, and microscopic analysis of events that define women’s conversation.

Case in point:

My best friend (female) called me with some “holy crap! I can’t believe it! You have got to be kidding me!!” kind of news yesterday. We went over every aspect of this astounding news in gory detail, revisiting all the juicy parts 2 or 3 times. We spent a good 1/2 hour on the topic.

My husband (male) also told me some “holy crap! I can’t believe it! You have got to be kidding me!!” kind of news yesterday. When I asked for more detail,  his response was, ” I don’t know. I didn’t ask, and he wasn’t volunteering any more info.” And he was quite comfortable leaving it there.

Guys–PLEASE, explain to me: HOW  in the world do you not ask for more info? details? images? insights? analysis? Aren’t you curious? Aren’t you dying to know???

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Language instruction as a diversity initiative

Posted on January 24, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Are you an expat working in the US? If so, I’d like to know about the language and cultural challenges you face in the workplace. You can post a reponse here, or email lsupraner@callearning.com


Any corporate diversity/inclusion initiative must include helping expats assimilate into the workforce. Diversity and inclusion are not just about leveraging difference, but about helping outsiders assimilate to the group.

Imagine for a moment that you are working in a foreign country and conducting business in a foreign language. Unless you have native-like fluency, you probably cannot express yourself as fully and profoundly as you would like to, and have to adjust your thoughts for what you’re capable of saying. You may be embarrassed or shy to speak up because of your limited language skills. You have a great depth of knowledge in your area of expertise, but don’t have the vocabulary to express it. Although you are influential in your native language, you have trouble leading in the foreign language in which you work.

I’m working on an article on the language and cultural challenges facing expat employees in the US. Almost 16% of the US workforce is foreign-born. 50% of the this group are Hispanic and 22% are Asians. Both groups tend to be in certain occupations. In some industries, expats can make up a signification percentage of a company’s human capital.

Among foreign-born workers, 2 tiers exist: Latinos with low education and low skills, and educated professionals from Asia. Both groups have workplace communication problems, but the problems are different for each group. For Hispanic workers in construction, manufacturing and services, workplace language issues may include following procedures, safety and reducing errors. For Asians in professional jobs, communication problems could include participating in meetings, delivering presentations, and business writing. Both groups will face problems in adjusting to American workplace culture.

Any training program must be tied to business objectives. Assuring your workforce has language fluency is tied to business objectives in that it:
• Reduces time to market through greater productivity
• Leads to fewer error and miscommunications
• Increases safety
• Taps into and maximizing talent

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Why it tastes like chicken

Posted on January 1, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I’ve heard that frogs legs taste like chicken. I’ve never tried them.   Alligator, too, is supposed to taste like chicken, as is iguana, snake and rabbit. Why do people say new or exotic meats taste like chicken? Because they are trying to fit the new information into their existing knowledge. It tastes like chicken applies to many intercultural experiences, not just cuisine.  We  may view someone else’s actions or behaviors based on our own framework, our own norms and customs. We try to make sense of another culture  by saying what it’s like or not like in our own.  Even as a committed interculturalist, I do have to remind myself, from time to time, that everything doesn’t taste like chicken.

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